Lance Ginn & Malachi

Lance Ginn (right) and his adopted son, Malachi.

Editor's Note: This article is sponsored by New Mercy Outreach.

MANSFIELD – On any given day in Ohio, nearly 16,000 children are being cared for by someone other than their parents. With about 6,000 licensed foster parents in the entire state, the need for more foster parents is urgent, including here in Richland County.

“There is absolutely a shortage of foster care families in our community,” said Lance Ginn of New Mercy Outreach, a private foster care agency located in Mansfield. “We get calls every day about foster children in need of placement.” On average, the agency is able to place five children in foster homes each month.

Ginn, who assists with the training of new foster parents at New Mercy, says part of the problem is a lack of accurate information about foster care itself. “There is a lot of misinformation out there in movies and television shows,” Ginn said. “Unfortunately, some of it paints foster kids and the foster care system in a bad light.”  

He and his wife Linda have been licensed foster parents for the past five years and his sister, Ashantia, owns New Mercy Outreach. He also grew up in a family that regularly cared for foster kids in their home.

“My parents became foster parents when I was in sixth grade,” Ginn said. “My grandparents also fostered and my aunts and uncles did too. It’s really become a family affair and a ministry to show love for others.” 

Lance & Linda Ginn

Lance and Linda Ginn.

“Fostering is a way of life for us,” Linda said. “My hope is we can get to a place where more people understand the need for foster care families and are willing to take on the role.”

The ongoing opioid crisis in this country is driving a large part of the need and the problem is not going away any time soon. By 2030, an estimated 4.1 million children are predicted to be in the foster care system as a result.

COVID-19 has only added to the burden. The pandemic has left more kids without homes, fewer families able to help, and inquiries about becoming foster parents down by 50 percent. 

In an effort to get more kids in good homes, Ohio has passed two bills since the beginning of the pandemic. One has reduced the number of training hours required for new foster parents. The other allows families to keep children experiencing foster care longer. 

Still, finding new foster care families is challenging.

“Recruiting new homes is a major undertaking,” Ginn said. He and Linda are quick to correct any misconceptions about foster parent eligibility.

“You don’t have to be married or in a relationship. You don’t have to be a woman either,” Linda said. “A strong male role model can do wonders for a foster child. Representation is just as important in the foster care system as it is in the workplace.” 

Lance, Malachi, Linda

Lance, Linda and their adopted son Malachi. 

Neither sexual orientation nor religious affiliation affects the eligibility of a potential foster care parent. 

Other than being at least 18 years old, there is no age requirement. Prior parenting experience is not a prerequisite.

In addition, you do not need to own a home. The only financial requirement is that your income, separate from the stipend you are paid to care for a foster child, is enough to support yourself and your family. 

Becoming a certified foster parent is quite affordable. The mandatory pre-placement training is free and many agencies cover additional costs. New Mercy Outreach offers ongoing paid training for licensed foster homes, emergency and non-emergency respite care and transportation to all out-of-county appointments and visitation.

“The most important thing you can give a foster child is love and security,” Linda said. 

Ginn agrees. “There is a child out there who needs you,” he said. "Everyone has something to offer a child in need.” 

For more information on becoming a foster parent, visit New Mercy Outreach online.


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